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History of the Museum of Religions

The collection was founded in 1927 by Protestant theologian and religious philosopher Rudolf Otto, who became well known internationally for his work “The Idea of the Holy” (“Das Heilige”) in 1917. With support from the “Marburger Universitätsverein” (Marburg University Association), Otto acquired objects from different religions and traditions while travelling throughout Asia. Gifts and permanent loans from missionaries to Africa and Oceania began expanding the collection in the 1930s. The collection has also grown through purchases, donations, endowments, and foundations; of particular significance was a bequest from the Protestant theologian Heinrich Hackmann, which is now part of the Marburg University Library.

Over the course of its history, the museum changed location several times within Marburg. It opened in 1929 with an exhibition on "Foreign Relics" in what is now the Art Museum. It was not until 1950 that it was possible to permanently move a large part of the collection to the Landgrave’s Castle, the highest building in Marburg. In 1981, the collection was moved to its current location in the Old District Court (Altes Landgericht) located directly below the castle, after the then-director Dr. Martin Kraatz campaigned to convert the old court building into a museum rather than demolish it as planned.

  • Literature on the History of the Collection

    Franke, Edith und Konstanze Runge (2017):Die Religionskundliche Sammlung der Philipps-Universität Marburg – Ein Museum zur Vielfalt der Religionen, in: Michael Klöcker, Udo Tworuschka (Hgg.): Handbuch der Religionen 52. Mediengruppe Oberfranken: Bamberg, I – 25.5 (12 pages).

    Franke, Edith und Konstanze Runge (2014): Religionskundliche Sammlung – Museum der Religionen, in: Christoph Otterbeck, Joachim Schachtner (Hgg.): Schätze der Wissenschaft. Die Sammlungen, Museen und Archive der Philipps-Universität Marburg, Jonas-Verlag: Marburg, 193-199.

    Runge, Konstanze (2017): Studying, Teaching, and Exhibiting Religion, in: Gretchen Buggeln, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent Plate (Hgg.): Religion in Museums: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Bloomsbury: London; Oxford; New York; New Delhi; Sydney, 155-162.

  • A History of Museum Leadership

    Prof. Dr. Rudolf Otto (Systematic Theology)
    Museum founder - 1927, Director 1927-1929
    Prof. Dr. Heinrich Frick (Systematic Theology)
    Director, 1929 - 1952
    Prof. Dr. Friedrich Heiler (History of Religions and Protestant Theology)
    Director, 1953 -1961
    Prof. Dr. Ernst Dammann (African Studies, Theology, History of Religions and Protestant Theology)
    Director, 1962 - 1968
    Dr. Martin Kraatz (Study of Religions and Indology)
    Director, 1968 - 1998
    Prof. Dr. Michael Pye (Japanese Studies and Study of Religions)
    Temporary director, 1998 - 2000
    Dr. Peter Bräunlein (Ethnology and Study of Religions)
    Director, 2000 - 2005
    Prof. Dr. Edith Franke (Comparative Study of Religions)
    Director since 2006


    Dr. Käthe Neumann (Oriental Studies and Buddhology)
    Curator 1937 - 1968
    Dr. Katja Triplett (Study of Religions)
    Acting Curator  2007 - 2011
    Konstanze Runge (Study of Religions)
    Acting Curator  2011 - 2018
    Dr. Susanne Rodemeier (Study of Religions)
    Curator since 2018